Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Words and Languages

I came across one of my old articles on Apatani language, published in Popeerscope, a magazine published by Popi Sarmiñ Society in 1998. Here is an excerpt: 

An Apatani man uses his traditional sword – ilyo, all the year round. The act of cutting is expressed by various words, depending on the specific manner of carrying out the action. Pa is the most common verb to mean ‘to cut’: yasañ pato (cut the wood). It usually denotes cutting the wood vertically by bringing the ilyo from above the shoulder. Similar act of  cutting with an axe or a spade, however, is denoted by ta: yasañ tato (cut the wood, especially for firewood), diter tato (till the land). Ta is also appropriate even when the ilyo is used to cut a piece of wood longitudinally to make it fit to be burnt as firewood: ilyo lo yasañ tato (cut wood for firewood with ilyo). When the spade is used to till the land, but the act is accomplished by bringing it from below the shoulder level, the verb o is used: balu oto (till the garden).

If a bamboo, for example, is longitudinally split into two parts, the verb used is por: bije porto (split the bamoo). But if it is so split into smaller strips, cha is used: hiika bije mi chache to (split that bamboo), siirañ chato ((split the log to make it into posts), yaso chache to (split the cane). After the whole piece of a cane is split (chache) into smaller strips, they are shaved with knives to make them ready for use as ropes. The act then becomes gyo: yaso gyoto (prepare the ropes by shaving). So, we can say, yaso mi chache lala la gyodu (the cane is smoothened to ropes by shaving after splitting it into fine strips). And if the skin of the bamboo is separated to use it as a rope, lyo is used: bimpa lyoto (prepare bamboo ropes). When the inner portion of a piece of bamboo stick is shaved into several leaves to make it into a decorative item or for preparation of an altar, the verb tii is used: jompu tiito (prepare jompu). If the outside portion of a piece of wood or bamboo is shaved, the verb used is hu: siika yakho mi humeto (trim this stick).

When something is cut by keeping the ilyo or the knife in close contact with the object and moving the former to and fro as in sawing, the act becomes pi: yo pito (cut the meat), siika yaso mi pireto (cut this rope). If an object is cut by keeping the ilyo or the knife in close contact with it and the sharpened edge facing away from one’s body, nya is the appropriate verb: yakho khohe nyato (make a stick), hiika yakho mi nyamyuto (sharpen the point of that stick). Similar act, keeping the sharp edge facing towards one’s body is gya: sarse gyato (cut the bunch of millet), iñka yaso mi gyareto (cut that rope). And to chop is tiñ: yo pyare tiliñto (chop out a piece of meat), siika yakho mi tiñtuto (chop this stick into two).

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